What Happened To My Love Life When I Stopped Wearing Deodorant

Photo: LightField Studios / Shutterstock
woman sweating on a treadmill

Once upon a time, I used to shower every day.

In high school, I showered after sports practice because I wanted to rinse the sweat out of my hair before returning to class.

In college, I showered after crew practice because I always came home covered in sticky salt water. And I had a class after.

But then, I graduated and something changed.

I started going to the gym after work.

Immediately after, I would eat because I was ravenously hungry.

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Maybe I'd stop for groceries or do some other grown-up thing on the way home. By the time I got back to my apartment, all my sweat would have dried, obliterating my desire to shower.

My boyfriend never complained. In fact, he would often tell me he loved the way I smelled after the gym. Which totally made sense.

See, I'd been reading a wonderful little book called The Psychology of Physical Attraction, by Viren Swami and Adrian Furnham.

From it, I learned the important role that smells and pheromones (a chemical we release that can affect the behavior or physiology of others) play in our attraction to others.

Each person has their own unique "odorprint," which reveals something about our immune systems and genetics.

We tend to be attracted to people whose "odorprint" is different from ours — that way, we don't mate with our relatives accidentally and our offspring have a more robust immune system.

In other words, if my boyfriend and I are genetically and sexually compatible, he should love the way I smell.

After this revelation, I stopped wearing deodorant.

It's been years and no one I've dated in that time has ever had complaints.

For the most part, they tell me they love the way I smell. (As long as I take a shower every two or three days, anyway. Once in a while, my boyfriend will gently remind me it's been a while since my last shower.)

I do make an exception to my no-deodorant rule on occasion.

When I play basketball, I know people's faces will be in my pits so I wear deodorant. When I go dancing, I wear deodorant because clubs are usually hot, humid, and in very close quarters.

And if I'm going to a special event, I wear deodorant, because it's polite, right?

Here's the thing, though: After so many years of going natural, rubbing a stick or gel on my pits can feel ... sticky. Goopy. Uncomfortable. Not to mention the mess it makes on your clothes.

I solved this problem with EO's Organic Lavender Spray.

It's alcohol-based, so you spray it on and it dries immediately, leaving no residue or stickiness.

And it's zinc and aluminum free — the only ingredients are ethanol, water, and lavender oil.

Of course, my deodorant-free journey has elicited many conversations over the years.

Here are 4  things I've learned from not wearing deodorant:

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1. Not everyone needs deodorant

Forget what the marketing geniuses would have you believe about how disgusting and stinky you are.

Chances are, you aren't. Research shows that most people overestimate how much they smell. Some people don't actually smell at all.

So how can you tell if you "need" deodorant? You can do it the old-fashioned way and just ask a trusted friend, significant other, or family member. Just don't get mad if you don't like their answer.

Another way is ear wax. There are two ear wax types: white and flaky, or dark and sticky.

This is determined by a single gene (ABCC11). People with dark and sticky ear wax carry the ABCC11 gene and are more likely to produce a chemical that odor-causing bacteria feed on.

Meanwhile, people with white and flaky earwax lack ABCC11, and usually don't smell very strongly. (Fun fact: most East Asians and almost all Koreans lack ABCC11. Lucky!)

2. Without deodorant, you probably won't get those yellow pit stains

I don't know what causes them. Neither do scientists or deodorant manufacturers.

But I do know that, since I stopped wearing deodorant, I've (mostly) stopped seeing these stains on my clothes.

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3. Deodorant might actually be toxic

So, here's a not-so-fun fact: the FDA doesn't regulate cosmetics. At all. And deodorant is classified as a cosmetic. 

This means that there could be harmful ingredients in your deodorant, including iron and aluminum, which have been linked to Alzheimer's and breast cancer.

Not to mention ingredients like propylparaben and methylene glycol, which, a 2013 study showed, releases formaldehyde.

I'm strongly opposed to pseudoscience and scare tactics (unlike, say, The Food Babe), but I do know the cosmetics industry has an ugly history of using harmful ingredients and not recalling unsafe products.

It's worth checking what's in your products and making an informed decision based on real research.

4. Deodorant attracts mosquitoes

Unless you go unscented, there's a chance you're attracting more stinging, disease-carrying bugs than you need to.

If you're going to be outside, consider skipping the antiperspirant. You'll be more comfortable, and no one smells bad in the open air, anyway.

Long story short: you might not need to wear deodorant every day, and there's a decently large chance your significant other won't mind your natural body odors.

I hope this gives you the courage to try (or just consider) going deodorant-free — at least sometimes.

But, of course, the choice is yours.

The only thing you "should" do is what you're most comfortable with.

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Eva Glasrud is a psychologist and education consultant at Paved With Verbs. She also runs The Happy Talent, a blog about social and leisure skill development.